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Trip Report Quickie review of Husk, Charleston SC Bon Appetit Best New resto 2011

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OK, I will cut to the chase, wasn't impressed. We had 6:45 p.m. reservations Saturday night the weekend of Labor Day, which we had made in advance based on Yelp reviews and other suggestions. A few weeks prior to our trip BA named it the #1 Best New restaurant in the USA for 2011 with a cover picture and recipe of the dish I would later have for dinner.

A sub topic - as a psychology student in college we studied Festinger's theory of Cognitive Dissonance, which basically states that experience can clash with expectations. Keep this in mind while I write more.

The location is lovely, in what must be a restored mansion on Queen St. The good news is there is a parking garage almost directly across the street, so you don't have to valet park, if you choose. The hostess led us up a very, very tall flight of stairs to the 2nd floor. If you have disabilities, as I do, you might want to re-consider and eat in the bar next door. The room was charming, with a balcony setting we could see from our table. The decor was sparse, no flowers, just some reeds or possibly vegetable reeds, we weren't sure.

We were almost immediately disappointed to see there was a large bridal shower party occupying 2 tables near us, seeming to be having tons of hors d'oevres & drinks. IMHO, large parties usually occupy the majority of the server and kitchen's time and attention and smaller parties suffer. Ours was not an exception to this. The "theme" of Husk is the best produce in the South with a fresh, new twist. On their website, you have the opportunity to peruse the farmers with which they do business and observe the sourcing of their ingredients. The chef, Sean Brock, is a James Beard award winner.

The liquor menu highlights various types of whiskies and bourbons, I guess that is part of the American theme. We are not drinkers and the waiter seemed particularly galled at our lack of a drink order. We started with sharing an appetizer of foie gras and carmelized peaches. This may sound strange, but it was really, really tasty. The plate was beautiful. The bread served were biscuits, which were also the highlights of the meal.

My DD wanted to oder the beef tenderloin, on the menu at the time we visited, but the side dishes were braised cabbage and another root vegetable. I don't know too many kids who would eat cooked cabbage. I had read from other reviews that they are very, very strict about substitutions and I tried to figure out how to help her. I told her to say to the waiter she was allergic to cabbage, it made her break out, and could she get something else? Luckily, this ruse worked for her and her meal, served with grits, was delicious and a decent sized portion. We ordered a side of the recommended bacon cornbread for the table, a hefty $7 addition to our meal. I like cornbread very much, with cheddar cheese, with jalapenos, with sour cream, all sorts of additions. Who wouldn't like bacon cornbread? I wish I had had the temerity to complain. Not sure if it was just the luch of the draw, but our cornbread was extremely dry, very smoky with bacon flavor, but not shard of chopped bacon. Very bad!

On to my meal. Well, don't you know, I ordered the BA cover recipe dish. Who wouldn't? All the hype and I love chicken. First of all, thank goodness I am a petite woman, because there were about 2 oz of sliced chicken on it. Skillet roasted chicken with seasonal vegetables, frankly, not that wonderful. Roasted chicken is something deceptive, sounds extremely simple to make, but is in actually difficult to get right - meat could be tough, bird is dry if roasted too long, skin should be crispy, etc. It was served with farro, a type of gran, and I will admit something new for me. Wasn't bad, just not impressive. The recipe in BA recounts a Herb Pistou used to flavor the chicken, and if they used it on my chicken, they should get a refund from their herb producer, didn't taste all that special.

The waiter was prompt, but brusque. We did seem to suffer as he had quite a few tables of large parties to care for. We were shown the dessert menu and were looking forward to having something scrumptious. There was a cobbler, and an ice cream, and a pie, nothing that really stood out. We chose to gobble up some pecan pralines from Market St. Sweets later, which were warm (oh my lord!).

Which brings me to my last thought - was I oversold on my expectations for this dinner? We live in a decent size Midwest city with some good, local fine dining as well. Last night I had some outstanding veal marsala with butternut squash risotto and roasted brussels at 1/3 price of our Husk meal that was 300% better.

What supposedly award winning restaurants have you visited? Did they live up to their reputation? Would you give up the name of a hole in the wall in your neighborhood to Yelp for fear it will become the next Husk or Hominy Grill (we have been here quite a few times and they always deliver. Our Aug 2011 experience was terrific).

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